If President Bush and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi can make nice, then it should be no surprise that Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott could join with one of his fiercest critics.
Wal-Mart antagonizer Andy Stern heads the Service Employees International Union that funds the group Wal-Mart Watch, which regularly criticizes the world's largest retailer over its employment and health care practices.
But in Washington Wednesday morning, where unlikely coalitions can often be found working together, Scott and Stern shared the stage with representatives from AT&T, Intel, Kelly Services (a temporary employee staffing company) and political operatives such as Howard Baker and John Podesta to announce a cooperative effort to change America's health care system.
Called Better Health Care Together, the group plans to bring in other corporations and individuals to overhaul the nation's health care system to slow growing costs and provide high quality and accessible care for millions by 2012. One of the group's four goals includes universal health care coverage.
"Working together, we can achieve a high quality, affordable, accessible health care system every American wants," said Scott. "We put aside disagreements to drive this debate forward."
"We need fundamental change," said Stern. "It's time to admit the employer-based health care system is dead."
The group did not, however, make policy suggestions or describe how and when or where actual money should be spent on health care.
And while Wal-Mart can please some of the people some of the time, the retailer could not win over all its critics after today's announcement.
Paul Blank, campaign director of WakeUpWalMart.com, said in a prepared statement, "If Wal-Mart is truly serious about universal health care, we challenge the company to provide universal health care to all of its uninsured employees and their families today."
And despite Stern and Scott coming together and sitting next to each other at the press conference, Stern said that his group, Wal-Mart Watch, will continue to operate and serve as a Wal-Mart watchdog.
Shortly after the press conference, Wal-Mart Watch's Executive Director David Nasser reacted.
"Wal-Mart's unaffordable plan is part of our nation's health care problem, and we're pleased that they want to be part of the solution," he said in a statement. "But Wal-Mart's participation in the discussion does not alleviate its responsibility for providing decent, affordable and accessible coverage to its employees."
The Better Health Care Together group plans to hold a national summit on health care by the end of May.